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Fat cats loving the World Cup

2010-07-05 08:38
Comment by Andrew Young

We all love going to big sports events, and we'll gladly spend our own cash for great seats...but what about when it's fat cats spending public money, and to the tune of over R120 million? It needs to stop.

An analogy based in truth: I’ve got two kids; one is 2 years old, the other 4-and-a-half. I consider myself to be both a fair and a firm father, giving them license to behave like the kids they are, pushing boundaries, getting stuck into muddy things and eating sweets when there is a party happening.

But I also come down like a ton of bricks when they get out of hand. And the way that I set my boundaries is simple: based on my experience of life, and what I know to be good, right, fair and safe I set a benchmark – a line that I advise they don’t cross. And then when they do cross it, I switch to ogre-mode and switch off Dora the Explorer and take away the train set and…well, you know how it goes.

So explain this to me then: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan EXPLICITLY warned all the parastatals, government departments and the larger business community that splurging out on World Cup tickets would be ‘deemed wasteful’, never mind the potential legal ramifications.

Most importantly, and inherent in this warning, is the implication that, in a country where 40% of people live on or below the breadline, and the remaining 60% largely just keep their heads above water, an excessive blowout on corporate World Cup packages and top-tier tickets is simply not moral or ethical.

So why then, following the above analogy, and assuming that Gordhan is the ‘father’ in the ‘naughty child’ situation, has his warning been discarded like a used fish-and-chip wrapper in a Cape South Easter?

This morning’s newspapers are full of allegations that more than R120-million of public funds has been spent on World Cup tickets by the government and state-owned enterprises. This includes, amongst others, R17 million on cars and VIP facilities (according to the DA), and R12 million spent by Eskom – which, despite the ‘continued efforts to provide effective power to all South Africans' (sell me another one!) very kindly managed to cut off the power to my neighbourhood at the start of the Ghana vs Uruguay game. I was not pleased...not pleased at all.

How is it that the powers that be can so blatantly, so callously disregard the advice of the very person they put in charge to police spending? How is it that companies which are run so inefficiently as to be a national disgrace, and who are permanently standing palm-up at the begging table of the Reserve Bank, can find that sort of cash lying around to blow on a day out at the footie?

And how is it that I, as a hard-working, tax-paying South African come to feel so ashamed when my car-guard (informal) who lives on the street with his little baby exclaims how amazing he has found this World Cup and how he believes things will be better for him because of it? I want to share his short-lived happiness, and I want to believe that the World Cup has and will continue to bring great benefits to South Africa – but I can’t help but wonder how many houses that R120million could have built, and how much of the residual benefits that come with hosting the world’s biggest event will be divided amongst the fat cats, never to be seen again.

But most of all I wonder whether the proverbial ton of bricks will ever rain down on these naughty children who always have to spoil the party for everyone else.

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